Equestrian center coming to Stokes County

DANBURY — It turns out that a decision to close Victory Hill Church Road was the under-card for the County Commissioners on Monday.

The Main Event was the announcement that billionaire developer Roy Carroll will build a world-class equestrian center in north Stokes County, east of Sandy Ridge.

Carroll, who lives in Greensboro, has more than $4.5 billion in assets including a 191-foot yacht (named Skyfall), a Gulfstream G-450 jet, the Bee Safe storage chain, The Rhino Times newspaper, a hotel management company and a company that runs apartments in multiple states. His new Rockingham County industrial park has landed a $96 million facility and 403 future jobs from a Belgian company.

The development company was started by his father as a small home-building business. “He retired in 1990 and I bought his half of the company.” The younger Carroll has purchased more than 4,000 acres in Stokes and Rockingham counties, even across the border into Virginia. And he wants to put an equestrian center on a small portion of that property.

Will Carter called it “the largest investment during my tenure as economic development director. We realize the value of agri-tourism to the local economy, and we appreciate Mr. Carroll for his efforts to invest and provide a positive economic impact and create addition job availability.”

“I know there’s been a lot of speculation and rumors floating around,” Carroll told the Commissioners. “We hired a company out of northern Virginia that specializes in larger tracts of land. One of the things I knew we wanted to do was a stable/equestrian center. But it’s beautiful rolling hills, not conducive to pastures. The company zeroed in on the area along Victory Hill Church Road. We looked for alternate sites, did a pretty exhaustive study, and (other locations) really don’t work.”

The plan is to develop only about five percent of the total acreage and leave the rest in its natural state.

“What we’re in the process of designing is a first-class equestrian center, not your ordinary barn-stable. There is nothing like it in this area. It represents tens of millions of investment in your community, with at least two dozen or more employees. It will have horses or course, but more. It will be a place that will draw people for events, education, corporate retreats, weddings … it’s a huge thing for this day and time to find space for those types of endeavors. I do think there will be an opportunity to partner with some educational facilities, be it high schools or colleges. It will be a huge asset, with a lot of prestige.”

Commissioner Andy Nickelston asked about a projected economic impact to the county. “I have no dollar figures,” Carroll responded. “We will not develop this land, so you won’t see houses out there. It will be a positive impact on the tax base. This is a great step in the right direction (for the county).”

Carroll came armed with an artist rendering of the facility, which wowed the Board members. Commissioner Rick Morris called it “one of the most beautiful buildings I’ve ever seen. I can’t imagine having that in Stokes County. What I blessing it would be to have that.”

“My promise to you all is to do everything first-class, best-in-class, to have something we can all be proud of one day,” Carroll said.

“I’ve done some homework and what I’ve found is that you do have a history of improving the quality of life in Greensboro and other areas that you go into, and I think that’s exactly what this will do,” added Board Chair Sonya Cox. “You’ve pretty much changed the face of Greensboro, so you can help us change the face of Stokes County as far as it being a destination. That will help make a name for Stokes County and be a real draw for our area.”

Commissioner Wayne Barneycastle called it “one of the greatest things that’s happened to the Sandy Ridge area. … I’ve lived in this county all my life and have always heard ‘this side of county’ and ‘that side of the county’ and it makes me sick to my stomach because we’re all Stokes County citizens.”

The Board did approve the request was received for the closure of the .4 mile section of Victory Hill Church Road that’s within the county by a 3-1 vote. Commissioner Ronnie Mendenhall was the lone dissenting vote, and Nickelston recused himself.

The NC DOT had already decided to close the Rockingham County portion of the road, and the Rockingham Commissioners approved that plan.

In other business the County Commissioners:

Again discussed the Courthouse expansion plan. “The plan in place is a good plan that meets the needs of the judges,” said County Manager Shannon Shaver. “The one question we have is on the Board of Elections, where to relocate them, and also the helipad. After speaking to Jason Perry, the Elections director, and him speaking to his Board, they are in favor of building a new building rather than converting something.” “Building costs will continue to climb so the sooner we can lock it in the better,” said Cox.

Morris noted that the county’s veterans want good office space that can provide needed services. Shaver said the plan is to re-locate that office to the third floor of Reagan Building.”

Nominated four persons to the Stokes County Aging Planning Committee: Judy Hennis, Joanne Hall, Tammie Mabe Bennett and Jack Sneed.

Approved the MOE budget request from DSS Director Stacey Elmes.

Approved redesign plans for the Green Box sites at Walnut Cove and Pinnacle.

Designated the week of May 15-21 as Emergency Medical Services Week with a resolution that recognizes the value and accomplishments of EMS providers.

Approved a resolution marking the month of May is Older Americans Month.

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